A startling diary reveals the onset of autism

A meticulous diary kept by a mother of twins has revealed indicators of autistic behaviour in children as young as six months of age. The findings are published today in Neurocase.


Mel Rutherford, assistant professor of psychology at McMaster University, says the diary provides a rare and unprecedented opportunity to observe the early development of autism. She says the mother of fraternal twins recorded her observations almost daily for about five years, beginning before the twins’ birth. She charted the children’s development in speech, social interactions, growth, and sleep disturbances, unaware that one twin was autistic until a diagnosis was made at three years of age.

“It appears that children with autism develop normally for six months, and then begin developing atypically,” says Rutherford. “As typical children begin to accelerate in social development, the child with autism makes only minor gains.”

During the first six months, both twins smiled, engaged in socially responsive vocalization, and showed a preference for family members over other people. By the age of one, however, the male twin showed less eye contact, less verbal communication, and less affection toward others than did his sister. His sleep patterns were also noticeably different from his sister’s. By the age of two, the boy had developed a fixation on particular patterns and puzzles; at age three, a child psychologist noted the boy “did not offer comfort if others are in distress and will not come for comfort is he is hurt.” The mother’s diary tells of her son’s facial expressions that ranged from limited to “spaced-out’.

The twins are now 12 years old. Rutherford reports that the female twin is doing well and read an early draft of Rutherford’s research manuscript. The male twin “continues to struggle with language development, but is usually a happy child.” The twins’ mother has started a nation-wide organization that funds autism research.

McMaster University, named Canada’s Research University of the Year by Research InfoSource, has world-renowned faculty and state-of-the-art research facilities. McMaster’s culture of innovation fosters a commitment to discovery and learning in teaching, research and scholarship. Based in Hamilton, the University has a student population of more than 20,000 and more than 112,000 alumni in 128 countries.

Media Contact

Jane Christmas EurekAlert!

More Information:

http://www.mcmaster.ca

All latest news from the category: Health and Medicine

This subject area encompasses research and studies in the field of human medicine.

Among the wide-ranging list of topics covered here are anesthesiology, anatomy, surgery, human genetics, hygiene and environmental medicine, internal medicine, neurology, pharmacology, physiology, urology and dental medicine.

Back to home

Comments (0)

Write a comment

Newest articles

Detecting pathogens faster and more accurately by melting DNA

A new analysis method can detect pathogens in blood samples faster and more accurately than blood cultures, which are the current state of the art for infection diagnosis. The new…

Black hole at center of the Milky Way resembles a football

Researchers revealed that the black hole’s spinning speed could provide an ‘incredibly powerful kick’ to surrounding matter. The supermassive black hole in the center of the Milky Way is spinning…

High resolution techniques reveal clues in 3.5 billion-year-old biomass

Research team analyses organic material from the early Earth tracing its origin and composition. To learn about the first organisms on our planet, researchers have to analyse the rocks of…

Partners & Sponsors